“Would you like to go pray with me outside Planned Parenthood?” my friend asked.
“Sure,” I responded.
We scheduled a day and time and put it on our calendars.
Now, this is not a regular event for me. I have never prayed outside an abortion clinic even though I support organizations and individuals who do make prayer vigils a part of their mission in reaching women, men, and the unborn.
I was a little hesitant, but I never told my friend. There are many events I have taken part in with my pro-life stance, but prayer on the “frontlines” didn’t seem like my thing.
A Sidewalk View
We arrived at Planned Parenthood and found a young woman handing out pamphlets to those driving into the clinic and quietly praying over each individual as they entered the building. We greeted her on the sidewalk and exchanged names. In our conversation, we find out this twenty-one year old has been praying on the frontlines—in the various states, she has lived in— since she was eight years old. Wow, I wanted to reach out and hug her with pride, all while bowing my head in shame. It’s taken me forty-some years to stand alongside her.
While all three of us were talking, a woman got out of an Uber car heading toward Planned Parenthood. She was walking past us, and our new friend started to engage her in conversation. The woman was friendly and engaging. We find out she is a local university student, pregnant, and unsure of what she is going to do about her baby. She knows it is a baby. The saved photos on her cell phone reveal she’s been wondering—dreaming—about what her child might look like. She’s black, and the father is white. All four of us react with joy and awe over the beautiful faces of racially mixed babies on her phone.
She wants an ultrasound to find out how far along she is. The price of that ultrasound is an expense above what she can afford. She relays her financial struggles and her history— a refugee orphan, saved from a worn-torn African nation, no family to speak of, English is her second language.
“I have no one!” she repeats several times throughout our conversation.
This woman’s story becomes so much more than that baby inside of her. We are now silently praying for that soul within a soul.
“Do you know,” I interrupt, “that you can get an ultrasound at a pregnancy center for free?”
“For free?” she questions. “No, where is this place?”
We direct her to an address and phone number. She dials the number.
The three of us give her some space as she makes the call, and we begin to pray…
There we were—all four of us—outside Planned Parenthood. One was calling the local pregnancy center; the other three were calling on heaven to open this opportunity of rescue for this woman and her child.
An afternoon appointment was confirmed.
“Do you need a ride?” our young friend asks the student. “I am about to leave and can drive you to the pregnancy center.”
“Yes, please!” the pregnant woman responds with a French accent from her native language.
“May we pray for you?” I boldly get the nerve to ask.
She agrees, and I hold her hand.
I don’t recall the exact words, but I wanted her to know that through our prayers, God sees her. He knows her and understands her doubts, fears, and struggles. We ask God to help this woman and her baby. Her life is valued. She was born into tragic circumstances, yet God has made a way for her. She’ll graduate from a major university with a degree in a couple of months. How’s that for a refugee story!
“God, help this woman to see the hope in her life as the same hope for her baby! Amen.”
The Church’s Mission
We said our goodbyes. My friend and I walked to my car and headed home.
Our young prayer partner drove the woman to her pregnancy center appointment. I have a feeling that sidewalk conversation continued in her car, and a friendship formed. Perhaps, contact numbers were exchanged.
“I have no one,” became I have someone!
Do I think she can graduate and be a mother too? Absolutely!
But she’s going to need a lot of help and support. Her future is uncertain, and she knows that. And honestly, we know that too.
But the three of us also know the power of the gospel. We see her life, and the life of her child through the hope of Christ. She doesn’t. All she knows is the practical steps she needs to take to afford a living for herself. Can she do it with a baby?
She will get support from the pregnancy center. They do what they do best for women with unplanned pregnancies. But they cannot do it alone.
When I got home, I continued to pray for that woman we encountered outside Planned Parenthood. She did not walk into the doors of that abortion clinic that day. For that, God be the glory!
But what now?
We shared the gospel with her on that sidewalk, but how far does it go?
Does it end at the pregnancy center?
Will the body of Christ—the church— continue the witness of that gospel in her life?
In the pro-life mission, there’s the sidewalk prayers and conversations on the frontlines, the haven of pregnancy centers, and then there’s the church. All three must work together. All three must hold each other accountable to be a witness for the gospel we preach, and the pro-life message we stand upon.
Does the church see itself as an extension of that life mission? An extension of our sidewalk conversation and the pregnancy center’s care of that woman and her baby?
Are we willing to do what we need to do so that a woman will not have to say, “I have no one. I have no choice!”
I accepted a friend’s invite, and it gave me a sidewalk view. Thank you to all those who continually pray on the frontlines. For all the ways many (and there are many) in the pro-life movement bring a loving, compassionate response to women and men who arrive at an abortion clinic. You are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. A reminder that the true gospel is lived out on the frontlines.
But I am now wrecked with a burden. What has taken me so long, and why am I not there more often?
It is my prayer that more of my brothers and sisters in Christ will venture outside of their church walls on this mission. Maybe not to the sidewalk outside of an abortion clinic, but to be an extension of support and a witness of the gospel that rescues those in need. To not only offer hope in life’s unplanned situations but to provide the eternal hope of abundant life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10